Does the religious context moderate the association between individual religiosity and marriage attitudes across Europe? Evidence from the European Social Survey

Aart C. Liefbroer, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Arieke J. Rijken, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

In Christianity, like in most other religions, marriage is highly valued. In line with this, research has shown that religiously involved people are much more likely than the non-religious to object to behaviors such as unmarried cohabitation and divorce, that are seen as undermining the centrality of marriage. These studies have examined religiosity as an individual characteristic. However, religion is also a major societal institution, and the strength of that institution could also be relevant for the strength of the association between religiosity and attitudes towards behaviors that undermine the centrality of marriage, like unmarried cohabitation and divorce. In particular, it could be that the differences between the opinions of the religious and the non-religious differ more strongly in some contexts than in others. In this paper, we examine this issue. The central research question is whether the influence of individual religious involvement on marriage attitudes varies by the average level of religiosity in a region. To do so, we use data from the third wave of the European Social Survey (2006-2007). Three-level regression-models were estimated, with individuals, regions, and countries as the three levels. The sample consisted of 45,144 respondents, nested in 226 regions, nested in 25 countries. Our results show support for the internal secularisation hypothesis. The lower the average level of religiosity in a region is, the weaker the effect of individual religiosity turns out to be. This could reflect a process of internal secularization where norms that are thought to be strongly linked to the Christian faith loose part of their relevance even among believers. This process of internal secularization is thought to be particularly prevalent among believers who live in a rather secularized environment.

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Presented in Session 64: Attitudes, culture, religion